Saturday, September 09, 2006

What Heritage?

Immediately after the Klan rally in Gettysburg the York Daily Record published an article claiming the debate over the Confederate flag had been refueled by the events of September 2nd. Their premise is based on the fact that a small unit of the Sons of Confederate Veterans protested the Klan at Gettysburg and that protester Mike Duminiak said “the flag belongs to those who want to honor the memory of their ancestors who fought on the side of the secessionist south.”

Most of us who claim anti-racist status have dealt with this issue on more than one occasion and cast a wary eye on such claims as “heritage not hate.” And to say that we have been more than circumspect when it comes to the Sons of Confederate Veterans would probably be an understatement. Floyd Cochran, who spent the week leading up to the rally educating people in Gettysburg, has been quite outspoken about the flag and what it stands for.

Daryle Lamont Jenkins, of One People’s Project, was quick to tell the York reporter that the heritage they are attempting to preserve is “not one that’s really favorable to my people.”

Ann Van Dyke, of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, said she is skeptical about whether or not the Confederate flag could ever be “removed from its identity with racist causes.”

Let us first consider that the Sons of Confederate Veterans has been permeated with some of the worst racists and anti-Semites that there are out there. Over the last few years, many members have left in protest over, not only the acceptance of racists within the rank and file, but the promotion of these hate-mongers into the upper-echelons of the organization. While the Unit that demonstrated in Gettysburg may have been attempting to paint themselves in a positive light, the fact still remains that their house is in desperate need of cleaning.

The “heritage” that the SCV and others claim they want to preserve and honor, is suspect, as well. Just what was that heritage? The Civil War was fought for a variety of reasons – one of which was the wish of certain people in the South to protect the institution of slavery and the economy of same. Is that cause for pride? The South seceded from the United States of America, wanting to go their own way. Additionally, there are those within the SCV who would like nothing more than for the “South to rise again” and, once again, to disaffiliate itself from the rest of the country.

Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but regardless of the faults and the problems that are endemic to this land, I happen to love America. To my mind, anyone wanting to engage in such actions cannot be seen as anything other than detrimental to a unified nation. One simple Google search of the Confederacy or the flag will take the surfer to hundreds of quotes just like these:

“i support secession by what ever means it may take we live under tryanny by liberal athesit from the yankee north and hollywood and other yankee liberal minded states we should and have every right to secessed from the tyrants of the leftist liberals who are benton destroying us threw thier own cowardice and acting as traitors by giving aid and comfort to our enemies”

“It is past time for the wrongest wrong in American history to be righted. Southern secession NOW!”

“Southrn's hear you country call you! Rise up! Rise again! We are losing control here! Let's get organized! I love America, and if we could stay together as a God-fearing nations, I would that we do that, but we can't. General Jackson, General Lee, and the reast of our 1860 patriots had the right idea. Then, we lost the war! We gotta re-claim the victory!!!!!!!!”

Yes, the spelling and punctuation and grammatical errors are all theirs – and so is the insanity. I have always been somewhat amazed at how fervently these people present their case and at how they seem unable to appreciate the reasons why many of us don’t take them seriously. Some of the most heated debates and discussions I have witnessed or been a party to have been with the neo-Confederates.

To claim in one breath to be “Patriots” and call for secession in the next breath seems more than just a little oxymoronic to this writer. Additionally, preserving and honoring a heritage of slave-owning, traitors is just a little more than I can comprehend.

When it comes to the issue of the flag itself, Duminiak claimed that the history “…has been hijacked by those who have no honor, who are politicizing the symbols of his ancestors who fought and died for the ‘Lost Cause.’”

Ummm…well, if that is the case, then it was hijacked a hundred and forty years ago and has been the symbol of the most abominable kind of hatred for one whole hell of a lot longer than it was a symbol of Glory for the South.

Racism and bigotry may not be unique to the South. Actually, geographical setting has little to do with any of this in modern day society. The fact remains, however, that there is racism and bigotry still within our society and like it or not, the Confederate flag is a constant reminder that we, as a society, have a long way to go.

Night raids, lynchings, and burning crosses are the only images evoked by the Confederate flag just as death camps, oppression, and gassings are the images brought forth by the swastika. As the swastika had a kinder and gentler meaning long ago, there aren’t too many out there running a campaign to fly it from atop state capitols. Why? Because it has taken on a whole new meaning – one of hate.

Once again, beware of those who say, “I’m not a racist, but….,” There are no “buts,” just as there is absolutely no valid argument for displaying a symbol that is equated with the oppression and death of a whole race of people.

As Holocaust deniers attempt to rewrite history, so do neo-Confederates. The Confederate flag is a symbol of hate and has been for well over a century. There are many neo-Confederates trying to sell mainstream America a bill of goods. Claiming “heritage not hate” really doesn’t carry a lot of weight with me – not when that “heritage” is one of hate-filled abuse directed at an entire race of people – not when that “heritage” is used as a smoke screen to further oppress or secede.

Groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the League of the South have thousands of members. Many belong to both groups and many of them are very racist. The whole of the flag argument is fraught with errors and is transparent at best. There is nothing that justifies displaying such a symbol in 21st Century America.

4 comments:

  1. Your analogy could be applied to any symbol. Sins have been committed under other banners such as the Stars and Stripes, the Swastika, the Hammer and Sickle (100 million dead worldwide under Bolshevism's various forms), the Star of David (remember the infamous Israeli massacre of Palestinians at Deir Yassin), the Cross (the Inquisition), and the Crescent (9-11), just to name a few. To single out the Confederate battle flag, along with the Swastika, for special treatment, seems a bit disingenuous.

    The CSA produced some of the finest people the world has ever known. The class and graciousness of Robert E. Lee and the indomitable courage of Stonewall Jackson have rarely been equaled. Had the Southern States been left alone, they probably would have voluntarily pulled the plug on their peculiar institution, slavery, in 15-30 years time just like the Mormons voluntarily pulled the plug on their own peculiar institution, plural marriage, in 1890.

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  2. One other thought occurred to me. In 1844, before being assassinated by a bloodthirsty mob of hooligans in Carthage, Il (none of who were flying a Confederate battle flag, by the way), the first Mormon prophet Joseph Smith announced his intent to run for President of the United States.

    Amongst his proposals - a step-by-step disengagement from chattel slavery over a period of time, with slaveowners being financially compensated from proceeds derived from the sale of Federal lands. The gradual approach would have allowed American society to easily absorb the influx of relatively underskilled people and increased their chances for a successful enfranchisement.

    Of course, such an approach might seem slow and cumbersome to those of us who have the benefit of 150 years of additional enlightement. But is is their fault that antebellum society didn't have the opportunity to benefit from the likes of self-proclaimed oracles like Abe Foxman and Morris Dees hectoring and lecturing them on a daily basis? ;-)

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  3. LEt me say a few things. The Sons of Confederate Veteans or at least huge portions of it are trying to do something about this hostile take over that has occured by the kooky league of the South. That should be commended

    Second, to be honest I think this flag debate and Confederate debate just so much plays into the hand of extremist groups. There is nothing wrong about remembering history of honoring ones ancestors who fought for the South.

    I am a big civil war history buff. I just returned from a visit to the Vicksburg Military park in Mississippi. In that Park you have monumnets to the people who served and died on bith sides. However what struck me was a exhibit that showed the past veterans of both sides that returned for reunions in the early 1900's. In fact many of these Union Veterans were the ones that wanted to make sure that both the Confederates and the Union troops were honored. I think we could learn something from that.

    ANyway, the enemy is not typical member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, most of whom are very patrotic and love this country. The true enemy is groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens.

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  4. Well, I should interject something here. My quote was part of a larger conversation I had with the reporter, where I noted that the SCV and I have some issues that we would be on opposing sides of, but then was not the time to deal with them. After I talked with that reporter, members of the SCV came up and shook my hand. I even told them the same thing. Then we got into historical discussions about the Confederacy, and as pondering american is trying to say, when one is focused on that, there isn't really a problem.

    Now comes the fun part. After we all got in the car to leave, the crew I was with started to have a discussion, and I asked if you were to suspend what the Confederacy meant to my people and to this country, would you feel they were wrong. The five of us said no.

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